Q: Can you give me a brief preview of what your talk will be about?
A: We are at the crux of a psychedelic revolution, with MAPS getting the approval for their phase III trials MDMA for PTSD for clinical research, marijuana becoming legalized in various places across the nation, and mushrooms were taken off as a schedule 1 substance in New Mexico. Right now it’s the Wild West, and there are many potential directions the psychedelic movement could go. As a community, we have to make sure that our voices and concerns are heard as psychedelics become more mainstream and possibly rescheduled. We also need to think about the sustainability of these medicines. With Ayahuasca rapidly growing in popularity, people are going deep into the jungle to harvest the vines, and we need to bring more focus to sustainability. Especially if these Shamans and facilitators are giving these medicines to the community, there is a responsibility to give something back to the earth to ensure these medicines will be around for future generations.
Q: How did you begin your psychedelic journey?
A: I was working at a bookstore in Seattle, Raver Books, where we had a lot of psychedelic literature, including works by Alexander Shulgin. In this position, I played an active role in the rave community in Seattle with throwing warehouse parties and providing harm reduction methods to attendees. At Raver Books we created a partnership with Dancesafe.org, which allowed ravers to get their Ecstasy pills tested for safety. At this time, the rave scene was so fresh that promoters did not provide onsite assistance for partiers that were having difficulties under the influence of various party drugs.
My father also struggled with addiction, and I saw him use marijuana and other medicines in a negative way, which taught me a lot about how these medicines should not be used.
In 2011, I had taken an interest in the studies of shamanism, and felt the calling to sit with ayahausca. My experience with the sacred vine allowed me to go back into trauma that felt like I had done 10 years of healing in one night. Soon after I was called to sit with plant medicines like San Pedro, Kambo, Hape, and Sananga. In each ceremony a new part of me healed and opened up and I was honored to sit with some of the most experienced and heart-led shaman. This was very different than my experience of people doing drugs at raves.
After several years of combining yoga and other healing modalities with plant medicine therapy, I completely let go of alcohol, Xanax, and use of party drugs as a means of self-medicating. I healed myself through receiving and training in energy medicine, Eastern philosophy, tantra, bio-hacking, soul retrieval, herbal medicine, mind body integration, archetypal mapping, meditation, somatic therapy, and shamanism. I found it intriguing that I could get a similar level of profound transformation from a 10-day Vipasana retreat, as I could from sitting with Ayahuasca. Both had their place and value within the medicine wheel.
I never thought that I would be working with medicines myself until I talked to Dr. Martin Polanco in 2014 about the potential to treat eating disorders with Ibogaine. After my first Ibogaine experience I wrote an article for Rebelle Society that went viral about the deep healing I experienced from Ibogaine in healing an eating disorder that haunted me since I was 10 years old. I was invited to work with the clinic. I continued down that path of creating retreats on my own and have now worked with over 400 people facilitating international medicine retreats in Mexico and Costa Rica.
Q: What is your opinion on the current trendiness and popularity of psychedelic use? Are there drawbacks? Are they being widely misused?
A: With every medicine there is a scientific and a spiritual element. These medicines have a very spiritual component, especially in their experiences. The medicines offer you a doorway to an understanding of yourself as a multi-dimensional, connected to all life, an expanded sense of self or consciousness. If you are someone who is open to seeing yourself that way, and open to what that experience may teach you, then this experience can be incredible. There are many religions and dogmas that are rooted in separation or compartmentalized belief systems. If you are someone who has a lot of your self image invested in a particular belief system, you may have a lot of resistance to experiencing yourself as a multi-dimensional, interconnected being. That could make the psychedelic experience difficult for you.
There is also a lot of misinformation around the safety statistics of psychedelic use. For example, when I first tried Iboga I had read that 1 in 300 people die experiencing Iboga. Of course I was terrified, but when I looked more into that claim, I found out that that study did not accurately portray the results, it consisted of 300 people with a variety of ages and health conditions. Much of the people that that died were people being treated for heroin or drugs. People who have healthy bodies and hearts have very little difficulty with experiencing Iboga or other psychedelics. Also, people who have any diagnosed mental health disorder, especially maniac depressive or schizophrenic disorders should not do any psychedelics. It’s sad because there are a lot of positive experiences being shared in the media around these medicines, and people with certain conditions can really benefit from this work. There is a problem in this country with over prescribing antidepressants and many people could get off them entirely with by working with a facilitator that understands the process of getting them off safely. The typtamine family of medicines, such as mushrooms and ayahausca, work on the serotonin receptors and have been found to be incredibly healing for depression. The problem is that when combined with SSRI’s as well as other forms of anti-depressants , they can result in serotonin syndrome which can cause seizures and even be fatal.
Q: What guidance do you have for psychedelic first-timers to make the psychedelic experience as positive as possible?
A: In all my years of doing this, I’ve come to understand that there is really no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Everyone is different and everyone is going to experience these medicines differently. I can say though that less is always more. If you are at an Ayahuasca ceremony and you see someone drinking a lot of medicine, don’t feel pressured or that you need to take that much in order to have a transformative experience. You can have a very beautiful experience on a small amount of ayahuasca, and you can receive a lot of healing with micro dosing with substances like LSD or San Pedro, of course with the guidance of a facilitator that understands this process. There is no need to ingest a large amount of medicine to get the benefits, especially if you are new to them. Another thing is the importance of taking a minute with the medicine and setting an intention for what you wish to experience from it. These medicines pick up energy all the time, so they are going to take on the energy of the person they traveled with, which is why it is so important to take a moment to engage with the medicine with your own energy.
Q: What is your vision for the future of psychedelics and their legalization?
A: I hope we can have a council made up of members of the psychedelic community, not government, can hear the concerns and desires from community members and make regulations based on that. We also need to think about ethical and sustainable harvesting of these medicines. These plants need healing just like we do, and if facilitators who are driven by money harvest them; their greed will create unhappy plant medicines. With marijuana for example, when I tune into this plant, it seems anxious, since it is mostly grown indoors and bred in ways to produces the highest amounts of THC to meet a certain profitable quantity. That’s the equivalent to a human being raised in a tanning bed. I sense that the plant wants to be grown outdoors and this will make sure the plant feel happy and stress-free.
Also, in regards to high priced retreats, though it valuable to offer, there needs to be accessibility of these medicines to people who can’t afford $400 a night for a ceremony but could really benefit from these medicines. Some of the medicines such as 5-MeO-DMT and iboga are incredibly expensive because of how rare they are, yet we don’t want to price people out of being able to access them all together.
The question that I ask all those working in the psychedelic community, is whether they are making decisions based on guidance from the medicine or from their own will. The medicines told me, “what ever is not sustainable, will not sustain”. I do see that when one works with them, the medicines will call those into integrity that have stepped out of alignment. We all get healing from all involvement with them, whether we like it or not.
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